The late girlfriend of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o' never existed. On September 12th, Manti's grandmother died. Six hours later, his fake girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, allegedly died from leukemia. Before that, Manti said she was in a car accident.
According to Deadspin, the photographs identified as Kekua...in online tributes and on TV news reports...are pictures from the social-media accounts of a 22-year-old California woman who is not named Lennay Kekua. She is not a Stanford graduate; she has not been in a severe car accident; and she does not have leukemia. And she has never met Manti Te'o. According to Te'o's interview with Gene Wojciechowski in a segment aired during the October 6th episode of College GameDay, Lennay's last words to Te'o were "I love you." Kekua's funeral takes place in Carson, Calif. (The Associated Press puts it in "Carson City, Calif.," which does not exist.) Te'o skips the funeral, saying Kekua had insisted that he not miss a game.
Deadspin claims Lennay was created by Manti's California friend Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Ronaiah allegedly created fake online accounts using a photo of a high school classmate.
TMZ claims Manti realized Lennay Kekua wasn't dead when he got a phone call from her cell phone at an ESPN award show in December...months after her supposed death. Manti told ND officials he had gone to Hawaii to meet Lennay in person on several occasions, but she never showed up.
Deadspin summarized: There was no Lennay Kekua. Lennay Kekua did not meet Manti Te'o after the Stanford game in 2009. Lennay Kekua did not attend Stanford. Lennay Kekua never visited Manti Te'o in Hawaii. Lennay Kekua was not in a car accident. Lennay Kekua did not talk to Manti Te'o every night on the telephone. She was not diagnosed with cancer, did not spend time in the hospital, did not engage in a lengthy battle with leukemia. She never had a bone marrow transplant. She was not released from the hospital on Sept. 10, nor did Brian Te'o congratulate her for this over the telephone. She did not insist that Manti Te'o play in the Michigan State or Michigan games, and did not request he send white flowers to her funeral. Her favorite color was not white. Her brother, Koa, did not inform Manti Te'o that she was dead. Koa did not exist. Her funeral did not take place in Carson, Calif., and her casket was not closed at 9 a.m. exactly. She was not laid to rest.
Te'o issued a statement Wednesday afternoon: "This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating. It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother's death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life. I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been. In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was. Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I'm looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft."
Notre Dame responds: On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te'o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia. The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax. While the proper authorities will continue to investigate this troubling matter, this appears to be, at a minimum, a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators.
"Saturday Night Live" comedian Seth Myers admonished online comics: "These Te'o jokes are all very funny but let's all try and remember that a person who never existed is dead."
Reagan Mauia, a fullback for the Arizona Cardinals, tells ESPN.com that he met Lennay Kekua when he did charity work in American Samoa in June 2011. "This was before her and Manti. I don't think Manti was even in the picture, but she and I became good friends. We would talk off and on, just checking up on each other kind of thing. I am close to her family. When she was going through the loss of her father, I was...I offered a comforting shoulder and just someone to bounce her emotions off. That was just from meeting her in Samoa. She was tall. Volleyball-type of physique. She was athletic, tall, beautiful. Long hair. Polynesian. She looked like a model.”